From San Francisco to Waterford

Back in 1983, I was fortunate enough to spend three months in San Francisco as a Graduate student at the University of California in S.F. While there was plenty of study, I managed to find lots of time to visit Golden Gate Park which was close to where I was staying and at the weekends I used to walk down to the Bay and treat myself to coffee and cake at The Cliff House.  Believe it or not, I didn’t take one photograph while I was over there.

Years on, I was browsing in Jackson’s antique shop in Waterford and happened upon two postcards in a box on the counter. They whisked me back to those surreal months and the places I had fallen for: Golden Gate Park


and, yes, The Cliff House:


I’ve had the postcards stashed away for ages now but questions about their history have played around in my subconsciousness.

One of the cards is very legible and was sent from 1206 Florida Street, San Francisco to 59 Lower Yellow Road, Waterford, Ireland.


It doesn’t surprise me that the stamp has been removed from the postcard as foreign stamps had great appeal even in my childhood. The fact that it was 1 cent for the stamp suggests, from my research, that the card was sent sometime between 1919 and 1952.

Here in Waterford, a trip to take a look at  59 Lower Yellow Road the other day brought something of a surprise. Here’s how it looks now:


Number 59 is to the left as we look at the building which is now Calvary Waterford Christian Church and prior to that it was a pub. I’m still in the throes of trying to find out if and when it was a residence of the Nolan family.

I was rather taken by an old postbox on The Lower Yellow Road and had visions of Mrs Nolan perhaps posting letters to San Francisco from there, though a visit to the Post Office might have been necessary.

Old Post Box on Lower Yellow Road, Waterford

The view of Lower Yellow Road from No. 59 looks like this:

Lower Yellow Road, Waterford

So many questions ~ so many memories ~ and what of 1206 Florida Street in San Francisco? Perhaps somebody will help me fill in the gaps at both sides of the Atlantic.

Meanwhile, one has to wonder if many postcards are being sent from San Fran to Waterford these days or is it all Skype, texts, Facebook and the like?




Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

32 thoughts on “From San Francisco to Waterford”

  1. Wow….how wonderful to be in California then you lucky thing, really interesting post Jean, maybe share it to the Waterford History Group on FaceBook?…I’ll share it on my page anyway too.

  2. Jean, this is a tiny URL for Google maps showing 1210 Floridat Street, San Francisco
    To the left in the scene should be 1206 as the street numbers for 1200 onwards go to the left from the corner. Great postcards, always interesting to follow up years later.

  3. How very interesting. San Fran is one of my favorite cities. It must have been cool spending three months there. No, I don’t suppose many postcards are sent anymore. How sad. I always enjoyed sending and receiving them.

  4. So intriguing! Hopefully your readers in the SF area will help you answer some questions. Too bad you didn’t go to the State University at Buffalo – I would have been glad to find answers for you here.

  5. I love this post! Now I suspect why you were lost in research yesterday. 🙂 This is the sort of thing that makes the Internet and the World Wide Web so wonderful to me–the ability to find out answers to questions such as this. One thing I have learned in doing some research on long ago locations is that street numbers change and street names change. From the link to Florida Street, my guess is whatever was there–if it is still the same location–is not extant. The block is listed as 1200-1266 all along the map, and then, the St. Peters school is next. (Kind of a coincidence related to the address in Waterford now, eh?

    1. Hi Suz, yeah this is the one that got me engrossed the other night and I can see that it has you hooked as well.
      I still need to follow up on a good few leads at this end.

  6. Now that I look again, that would appear to be 1200 Florida Street to me. In that case, it would be the building on the corner, and it could have been an apartment building–unless of course, Michael lived in a huge mansion.

  7. Oh, my, Jean, you have started me on one of my obsessions! According to the 1905 Sanborn map, 1200 Florida Street was a religious building, built 1905. The South Mission Historic Resources Inventory (2010) identifies it as the rectory of St. Peters Church. The Santa Cruz Evening News, March 30 1925 identified 1200 Florida Street, San Francisco as the parochial residence of Rev. Peter C. Yorke of St. Peter’s Church. I am going to give up the quest for the moment, but perhaps others will carry on, and we can discover who Michael is. I am not certain, but the date appears to be 19_6, but most closely resembles 1946 to me. Could the reference to “the late unpleasantness” have meant World War II?

  8. The building on the corner in the link crissouli provided is the St. Peter’s Catholic Church Rectory, as it was at the time of the post card writing. The rectory was on the corner, and the church and school are located along the remainder of the block. St. Peter’s was built 1886 for a parish that was primarily Irish immigrants, which explains why Irish patriot-priest Father John Yorke was the priest. Father Yorke was compared to Daniel O’Connell and every Palm Sunday since his death in 1925, the church celebrates an annual pilgrimage to his grave site. There are Loughreys identified in Co Waterford, but I do not find anything else about them. St. Peter’s was 1 of only 5 churches left standing after the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco. It caught fire in 1997, but was restored in 2000. The community had a long history of activism and support for immigrants, and it is now a 97% Latino community–many of whom are immigrants.

    Thank you Jean, for sharing this great story that connects us to our common shared histories. Daniel O’Connell and Father Yorke would be very welcome at the moment.

    1. WOW, you’re certainly getting into this, Suz.
      I was checkng our 1911 census today for the Irish address but it didn’t have any Nolans at that point.
      My next stop is archives of our local paper which has references to the address and the Nolans. Will keep you posted.

  9. Wow, how interesting is that? Those cards are worth a few pence in monetary terms but are priceless for the social history they portray, and the possibilities they suggest.

  10. Postcards and letters are glimpse into the past. The Cliff House and Golden Gate Park are wonderful places. How fortunate for you to have been there at that time. Comments were interesting!

  11. Hi Jean,

    California and especially San Francisco, is a very fun place, isn’t it? I spent a week there several years ago and just loved it. It is so, so different from the East Coast. It was so much fun to just walk around the city and see the sights and the people!


  12. What a wonderful and exciting mystery. Please keep us updated. You sure got a lot of response in this first post. Amazing.

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